Drudge: Condi Rice near the top of Romney's VP shortlist? Update: "No Condi"

I gave you two possibilities in the update to Erika’s post, before we knew who the “surprising” new frontrunner was. Either it was a bona fide scoop or it was a red herring deliberately leaked by Team Mitt to draw the media away from today’s Bain storyline. Now that we know who the alleged surprise frontrunner is, my money’s on the second explanation.

Late Thursday evening, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Meet The VP’ — just as Romney himself has narrowed the field of candidates to a handful, sources reveal.

And a surprise name is now near the top of the list: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice!

The timing of the announcement is now set for ‘coming weeks’.

It was Condi who received two standing ovations at Romney’s Utah retreat a few weeks ago, and everyone left with her name on their lips.

Any reason to believe there’s something to this? Arguably, yes: This piece by Bill Kristol published last Friday seemed strange and random at the time, but in light of tonight’s Drudge tease, it looks in hindsight like maybe BK got a tip from someone who’s tapped in and seized the opportunity to look prescient. Coincidentally, Rush Limbaugh mentioned her on the air yesterday too; doubly coincidentally, Peggy Noonan’s new column in the Journal tomorrow is all about how awesome Condi Rice might be as VP. I didn’t take Ann Romney seriously when she hinted that Team Mitt was considering a woman for the ticket, but the sudden Condi buzz among big-name Republicans makes me wonder if either something’s leaked or if Team Mitt is feeding this to friends who have microphones in order to try to create some advance grassroots buzz for his eventual pick.

And yet, I don’t buy it. Problem one: Bush, Bush, Bush. As I’ve said before, Jeb Bush can’t run for president because he’s related to Dubya but Dubya’s handpicked NSA-turned-Secretary-of-State is A-OK as number two? Why not double down and promise that Hank Paulson will be back at Treasury if Mitt wins? In fact, ironically, Condi may deliver the worst of both worlds. To doves, she’s a symbol of Bush’s alleged crazed hawkishness; to hawks, she’s a dove who can’t be trusted. Not sure how many foreign-policy points there are in that.

Problem two: Last I checked, Condi’s pro-choice. Admittedly, as you’ll see below, her position comes with lots of caveats, but so what? That won’t spare Romney a headache with social conservatives that he could have avoided by picking a veep from the 98 percent or so of prominent Republican officials who are pro-life. Besides, as John McCormack noted a few days ago, Romney’s already pledged not to choose a pro-choicer. Even if Condi’s had a Romney-esque “awakening” on this issue in later life and has now become pro-life, that only means that instead of having one candidate on the ticket whose reversal on abortion seems mighty opportunistic, we’ll have two.

Problem three: If Mitt’s thinking that he’ll earn huge diversity points with women and minority voters by running with Condi, I’d like to know why. Obama won a bigger share of women’s votes four years ago than Kerry, Gore, or Clinton did despite McCain having Palin on the ticket. (Reagan won women in a landslide after Mondale made Ferraro his number two.) The left will attack any woman and/or minority VP choice viciously as “inauthentic” and illegitimate in order to avoid losing any women or minority votes to the GOP. Look no further than the fervent effort today to paint Romney as some kind of racist for agreeing to speak to the NAACP and then refusing to remove his standard stump line about repealing ObamaCare to please them. There’s no one way they’re going to let a Republican candidate get even the tiniest, slipperiest foothold with a constituency they depend on for political survival. If Condi’s the pick, we’ll spend a solid three weeks hearing about her buying shoes during Katrina even though she’s since addressed that at length. That’s not to say that liberal attacks will necessarily succeed or that the prospect of them should determine Mitt’s choice, just to say that adding diversity to the ticket is by no means a slam dunk in terms of peeling away some of the Democrats’ core demographics.

Exit question: What’s the deal? Is this legit or is this a red herring being floated for political reasons? If the latter, you can already anticipate the left’s spin if/when Mitt ends up passing over Condi for boring white guy Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty.

Update: NRO’s Robert Costa is hearing otherwise:

Top Romney source tells me “no Condi.” More: Romney wants someone more comfortable in ‘attack dog’ mode

I hear a few UT retreat attendees (donors, etc.) are stirring Condi buzz. Per people I trust, it’s not Boston-driven

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